Opinion: What Nick should say about tuition fees at the 2015 general election

More than any other issue, tuition fees have damaged the view of our party in the country as a whole. For what it’s worth, here’s what I think our leader should say about fees when going into the next general election:

I would just like to say a few brief words about tuition fees.

As a party, we entered the last election with a promise to oppose any increase in tuition fees. As a party, we then broke that pledge. That was wrong.

Nothing can justify breaking a promise like that. Nothing. We made a mistake and we have been punished for it by the electorate over the past five years. But I can promise that we will never make that mistake ever again.

After the last general election, we found ourselves faced with a choice. Either we could keep our promise and let an unlimited tuition fees cap be implemented or we could break our promise and support a more limited increase in fees while trying to make sure the new system was as fair as possible.

The new tuition fees system is far fairer than the one before. No student will repay a penny until they earn over £21,000. Poorer graduates repay less under the new system than they did under the old. Wealthier graduates repay more. Anything unpaid after 30 years will be written off. For all intents and purposes, this is a time limited graduate tax.

On top of that, there is more funding and help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and we made sure that part-time students are no longer forced to pay their fees up front.

The new fees system is fairer and more progressive than anything which existed before we entered government. This was achieved despite the fact that 9 out of 10 MPs in parliament belonged to Labour and the Conservatives – both parties which had entered the election committed to supporting unlimited fees.

Nonetheless, we made a promise and we broke it. It doesn’t matter than the new system is fairer – it is the principle that matters. Well, we can’t change the past, though if we had been able to create a fairer system and keep our promise we would have. But the future is not written. We have learned from our mistake and the lesson will never be forgotten.

We did the best we could but we let you down. That was wrong and we are sorry. But I give you my word that we will never let you down ever again.

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49 Comments

  • So, basically, you want Nick Clegg to go into the next election the same way he went into the last – lying through his teeth. Trying to wriggle around the tuition fees disaster by setting up an entirely false dichotomy between the current policy and unlimited fees is shoddy politics and will convince no-one.

  • Foregone Conclusion 27th Sep '11 - 4:55pm

    @Simon Oliver

    Party policy is to abolish tuition fees, not just a ‘fairer system’. The manifesto contained a promise to abolish fees over the parliament. The current arrangement may be a good policy, but it was never ours.

  • I think the general gist is right about what we should be saying – the one part that needs some work is the third paragraph, where in one paragraph you admit we broke a promise then promise not to do it again, it just seems fake. I should stress this isn’t a criticism of what you’ve written, we are in a difficult position after breaking our promise (or at the very least appearing to have done so) and need to think carefully about how to get around this. Most important is to make a clear commitment to what we see as the next step (perhaps a graduate tax, reduce the 9% or increase the £21,000 by making everyone pay for the full 30 years rather than setting it as a debt that can be paid off). I also think there is a lot of work to be done (now not at the election) stressing that fee’s shouldn’t be a reason not to go to uni (deferred payment, only paid when you are earning over £21,000, written off after 30 years etc.) as much for social mobility as for our parties image – it’s tragic to hear young people not going to uni because they can’t afford the fee’s and are from poorer families, and if the system were better explained a lot of that would be avoided.

  • I should add – I think a large part of the problem with tuition fee’s is that Nick Clegg is personally implicated in the whole affair, and having a different leader (perhaps one who voted against the raise) going into the next election saying that would be far more believable than having Nick saying it. That’s not me being anti-Clegg, but as a party we need to recognise that Clegg mania has ended and he will soon stop being an asset and start being a drag on the party.

  • Nonconformistradical 27th Sep '11 - 5:05pm

    It’s a GRADUATE TAX – only repayable retrospectively while you earn enough to qualify to repay it and if you don’t earn enough you won’t repay it all. Higher earners will be subsidising low earners. The NUS supports the principle of a graduate tax. The only aspect for which NIck might apologise is the lousy way the scheme was presented.

    Lots of useful information at Martin Lewis’s website – see http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/family/student-loans-tuition-fees-changes

    It’s much fairer to part-time students – who don’t qualify for government support at present.

    The only people who would still end up paying up front and would therefore be seriously disadvantaged by the new scheme would be ELQ students studying for a 2nd qualification at the same or a lower level than one they already have and who won’t get up front government support.

    I actually wonder whether would-be students who can’t get their heads round the fact that they don’t have to pay up front and only pay retrospectively if/when they earn enough are really up to a university education in the first place.

  • Bill Kristol-Balls 27th Sep '11 - 5:12pm

    Right sentiment, wrong timing.

    Leaving it until the next election is too late and will allow Labour the space to define the issue even though imo they have no credibility on the issue given their double broken promise on fees during times of economic plenty and massive majorities.

    Nick needs to start saying he screwed up and he needs to start saying it now.

  • God knows what Clegg can say to the electorate about this, but the stuff that’s being suggested above is only going to reinforce the impression that the Lib Dems have been deeply dishonest about this issue.

    It’s no good saying this is more like a graduate tax than fees, or that some people will be paying less. People are well aware that on average graduates are going to be repaying a lot more under the new system than before, whatever name is given to those repayments.

    And it’s not even as though the Lib Dems supported a graduate tax in the first place. The party’s policy was (and still is, as far as I know) to abolish tuition fees and fund their abolition from general taxation.

    No matter how much people squirm around, the personal pledge was broken, and the party’s policy was ditched in favour of something completely different.

  • “Nothing can justify breaking a promise like that. Nothing. We made a mistake and we have been punished for it”
    err-…no…. actually we haven’t been punished yet. Just wait for the next general election to see what punishment we’re in for!

    Labour now accept that they should have shed Brown before the last election and would have done substantially better. LibDems need to remove Clegg because he is too closely identified with this shameful breach of trust.

    The man (and many of our party) have no integrity and the electorate know it.

    If we are concerned with a “FAIRER SYSTEM” –

    1. why do Latvians get free tuition in Scotland at our expense whilst English students must pay?
    2. why don’t those with degrees (ie Clegg, Cable etc) pay for THEIR degrees instead of forcing increased costs on future students?

    please someone reply because I’ve asked that question to every LibDem MP and not one has had the balls to reply!

  • Jonathan Hunt 27th Sep '11 - 7:03pm

    What kind of fairness is it where the poor have to subsidise the ich?

    Where the 60 per cent of the population who on aveage will earn £1 million less than the 40 per cent who are graduates.

  • The best way to make sure nobody votes for the Lib Dems at the next election is to repeat the bizarre assertion that the new system is fairer than the last. The second best way is to say the new system compared to a graduate tax, when it is nothing like a graduate tax. Tuition fees are regressive above middle graduate incomes, with the rich paying less as a proportion of their income than those on lower salaries. A graduate tax would ensure that the rich would pay at least the same proportion of their income over their lifetime.

    Jonathan Hunt
    “What kind of fairness is it where the poor have to subsidise the ich? Where the 60 per cent of the population who on aveage will earn £1 million less than the 40 per cent who are graduates.”

    Graduates typically earn £100k more over their lifetime than non-graduates, not 1million quid. However, ~50% of that extra 100k goes straight back to the treasaury, which is more than enough to cover their university tuition. THerefore non-graduates DO NOT subsidise graduates. With respect to Higher Education, the poor are most certainly not subsidising the rich – in fact it is the other way round, as rich graduates pay more in taxes than the value of services they receive, whereas those on low incomes receive more in public services than they pay for.

    There are many ways the poor get screwed in this country, but the funding of Higher Education is most definitely not one of them.

  • Andrew Suffield 27th Sep '11 - 8:24pm

    We promised to abolish tuition fees and every single one of our MPs promised to vote against any increase in fees. Nick Clegg then appeared in a campaign broadcast promising “an end to broken promises”. The new system might be the best thing that ever existed but that doesn’t change the fact that breaking a promise is deeply damaging to credibility, integrity and trustworthiness.

    The same pledge also promised a fairer system, so no matter what happened, there was no way to avoid breaking a promise. Bad pledge really.

  • @ Jonathan Hunt

    I’m not sure where you get your figures from, I thought the average graduate earned about £100K more than the average non graduate over their working life. (A sum which has now been wiped out by the tuition fee increase + interest charges)

    If the point you are making is why should the future dustman contribute towards the tuition of the future doctor? – the answer is simple. Because at some point the future dustman will require his heart / lungs/ prostate working on, and his fellow dustmen are ill qualified!

  • @ Andrew Suffield

    There is a fairer system. It’s called Income Tax – the better you do, the more you pay. What could be more progressive than that. Furthermore Richard Branson; Alan Sugar etc didn’t go to Uni – but you can bet they employ people who did, so shouldn’t they be paying for the “brain power” they are benefitting from?

  • Daniel Henry 27th Sep '11 - 10:25pm

    @ Simon
    That’s kind of a pedantic re-interpretation.
    It was clear what our policy was and what we meant to say.

    Personally, I’m in favour of us changing our policy on this.
    I went through Uni with fees, and although at first I hated the idea of getting into debt, once I was shown how the special government loan worked it was no longer an issue. I would simply contribute small amounts back to the system as and when I could easily afford it.

    Surely the billions it would cost to pay for fees could be better spent elsewhere?

  • Andrew Suffield 27th Sep '11 - 11:03pm

    But the fact is that there is a widespread perception that we broke our promise

    Certainly.

    and that any future promises we make cannot be trusted.

    If people ever actually meant this then nobody would pay any attention to politics, because nobody would believe anything that was said.

    Worth keeping in mind that the rhetoric rarely matches reality, even when the rhetoric is “can’t be trusted”.

  • I’d urge you to read this article from The Telegraph – not a libdem specialist forum but a main stream, national broadsheet.

    THE LIB DEMS WILL NEVER BE FORGIVEN FOR BACKING TUITION FEES

    Their words not mine – get with the zeitgeist!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/8784515/The-Liberal-Democrats-will-never-be-forgiven-for-backing-tuition-fees.html

  • @ George
    “On top of that, there is more funding and help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds”

    Be careful with this claim – it isn’t always true. As an example, Cambridge University used to give Bursaries of roughly £3,000 per year to the poorest students. This is to be replaced by a reduction in tuition fees. This means that the poorest students will have lower loans to repay, but no longer get the help towards rent and food today.

    This is likely to have the (possibly intended) consequence that the poorest students can no longer go to Cambridge since the support they need DURING their studies has been withdrawn.

  • Andrew Suffield 28th Sep '11 - 7:54am

    this article from The Telegraph – not a libdem specialist forum but a

    Tory campaign?

  • Rachel Coleman Finch 28th Sep '11 - 9:23am

    Tim Peters: on the specific matter of Cambridge financial support, bursaries are NOT being replaced by tuition fee waivers. It will be up to the individual student to decide whether to take the award (of up to £3500 per year) as a tuition fee waiver or as money for living costs: this is on top of the National Scholarship Programme which will give a £6000 fee waiver for the first year. Cambridge also has many College funds and scholarships which can help poorer students with living costs.

    More at http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/finance/2012entry/#cambridgesupport

    (Declaration of interest: I am a former Cambridge student and a current member of staff, and I work on the computer system which holds applications and student records.)

  • If we believe in fairness I would suggest that students should be told, you borrowed £27,000, that is what you pay back, not a penny more nor a penny less.

    I would also add that everyone should be made to repay on the basis of their income and there should be no £21,000 start in point. It should be set at £10,000, the point where we expect people to pay tax.

    It needs not only to be a graduate but a gradual tax based on income and ability to repay.

    Thank you to Rachel for the Cambridge clarification.

  • I thought George Potters piece was very good except I would have started off with the positives in the policy & wound up with the “Nonetheless we made a promise etc – – “. Our opponents like AndrewR will come up with inane comments regardless. However I’m inclined to the view that the moment to beat our breasts over tuition fees is past. Come 2015, given Miliband’s speech, there will be more than enough other broken promises to deafen with the noise of grinding axes. Probably no need at that time to say anything.

  • “The same pledge also promised a fairer system, so no matter what happened, there was no way to avoid breaking a promise.”

    The point is that when Lib Dem candidates signed that pledge, it was crystal clear that by “a fairer system” they didn’t mean a graduate tax or anything like it, because Lib Dem policy was to abolish fees altogether and fund the abolition from general taxation.

    Of all the excuses for breaking the pledge, the one about having pledged “a fairer system” is probably the most obviously spurious.

  • @ Philip Wren “If we believe in fairness I would suggest that students should be told, you borrowed £27,000, that is what you pay back, not a penny more nor a penny less.”

    You can’t tell them that because it isn’t true. Someone starting on With inflation at 3% and salary growth of RPI + 2%, someome starting on £40K having taken full loans would have to repay £150K (moneysavingexpert.com)

    Now you will no doubt say that someone earning £40K deserves to repay the most, but you fail to apreciate 2 points:

    1. Students likely to walk into a high paying job usually come from a background who can avoid this whole mess by not taking tuition loans. It will only cost them £27K whilst their poorer classmate has to pay £150K as a consequence of taking the loans – that’s not very fair

    2. It is un precedented to charge people more for a product or service on the basis of income. What if Tesco checked your bank statement at the door and increased the price of butter & eggs based on your earnings. It’s a slippery slope my friend and not one we should be treading!

  • Jonathan Hunt 28th Sep '11 - 5:33pm

    Tim Peters writes @
    I’m not sure where you get your figures from, I thought the average graduate earned about £100K more than the average non graduate over their working life. (A sum which has now been wiped out by the tuition fee increase + interest charges)

    If the point you are making is why should the future dustman contribute towards the tuition of the future doctor? – the answer is simple. Because at some point the future dustman will require his heart / lungs/ prostate working on, and his fellow dustmen are ill qualified

    Tim: A month ago I wrote in these columns:

    “According to new figures from the Office for National Statistics, graduates earn 85 per cent more than people with only GCSE qualifications over their working lives. Extrapolated over a 40-year career lifetime, graduates are likely to earn almost £1 million more than those on current average pay of some £25,000 pa.

    “The latest statistics show that the differential has fallen from 95 per cent in 1993, though the level of earnings has increased substantially over those 18 years. When looked at from that end of the telescope, it does not seem too onerous for graduates to have to repay some £30,000 or so when as a result of that investment they earn many multiples of that sum. They will still be some £970,000 better off (before tax) than non-graduates by the time they retire.

    “It seems to be a simple enough sum: 40 (years) X £25,000 (average earnings) totals £1,000,000. Plus 85% comes to £1.85 million.

    “The difficult bit is forecasting what proportion of the workforce graduates will comprise over what period, But we should deduct a modest amount for the graduates whose earnings form part of the £25,000 average wage (most non-graduates must earn much less than average wages).

    “If we do so, the differential totals more than £1 million. I took the lowest rate. It could be a lot higher. But made no allowance for tax and allowances, or pensions and other tax relief.

    “Is government really trying to suggest that intelligent people go through three years of hard, unpaid study (and now incur large bills as well) just to earn an additional £100,000 — or fifty quid a week on average over 40 years?”

    Whether the dustman may need the doctor more than doctors need dustmen is debatable, probably because poorly-paid manual workers die much younger than the middle clases, who cost the NHS a fortune well into old age.

    But he dustman is unlikely to need the casino banker or corporate lawyer, yet you expect him to pay his fees.

    I find it difficult to accept the rank unfairness and injustice of this form of reverse redistribution. Yet many so-called Liberal Democrats seemingly can when it is in their vested interests to do so.

    But I fully support he proposal that only the capital sum should be paid back, according to a formula based on the rickest paying back once they hit a pre-determined level of income.

  • @Johnathan Hunt – I’d apreciate a link to the ONS figures since something doesn’t stack up. The government’s own figures show that less than 50% of the student loans will be repaid in full before being written off after 30 years. If your salary figures are correct this would not be the case.

    Your point about manual workers mortality rate is specious since they tend to die due to other factores (poor diet; exercise; smoking etc) – these conditions result in them placing greater demands on the NHS albeit during a shorter life span.

    I completely agree about the coporate lawyer – but you’re naive if you think that they will incur these large repayments – they won’t – they’ll pay the £27K up front (or at least daddy will) and they will avoid the punative interest charges.

    MPs are just too dammed lazy to find creative solutions. I have long advocated that teachers/social workers etc should have their loans written off after say 20 years of public service. Similarly, a doctor could repay his debt by working for 15 – 20 years in the NHS. That way society pays for those who put back into society, but charges those (like the doctor who goes into private practice – or worse still takes up a career in TV (Harry Hill) ) who take the tuition but do little to benefit the society which trained them

  • Maria Pretzler 28th Sep '11 - 7:26pm

    Nick Clegg should change the whole discourse on universities. I think that’s our best chance to deal with the aftermath of the pledge debacle.

    He should say that we are no longer going to reduce the discussion to tuition fees, with politicians haggling over who can get away with the most promising amounts (usually without even thinking about what that means for university funding). We, as LibDems, should stand for a more sensible universities policy, where we don’t merely haggle over fees, but where we propose sensible policies which mean that what students find when they arrive at university really is an excellent experience: that they really get a very good education, that they benefit not just from the teaching but also from the research environments in those universities, and that universities, at the same time, can become even more effective centres of innovation, international contacts and intellectual excellence.

    Currently no party has such a policy: we ought to say that we have learned from the narrow-minded haggling over tuition fees and that we are now thinking about the whole issue in a more sensible manner.

    THAT’s what he should say, and that’s what we simply must do.

    The whole tuition fees gambit is an awful unintended consequence of Labour’s introduction of tuition fees, which somehow forced all politicians to engage in that mindless haggling game. We should refuse to play their game and let not our thinking be restricted by it.

  • First point – what policy do we go into the next election with? Seems highly likely the economy wil still be delicate although we must hope improving. Universities will be completely dependent on the new levels of money . Do we really think we will be saying we must now shift the entire burden to the public purse? Would anyone remotely believe us if we did?
    Second poiint – it was the pledge wot done it. We should make it publicly clear well before the next election that all our candidates are being advised not to sign any pledges whatsoever to any interest groups . Our pledge to the electorate is to implement as much of our manifesto as the election result permits. The more Lib Dems you elect the more you get.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Sep '11 - 11:55am


    The only aspect for which NIck might apologise is the lousy way the scheme was presented.

    OK, but this KEEPS happening. Clegg was sold to this party as a “great communicator”, but much of the poor showing of our party comes down to him and those around him being lousy in the way they present our position. Starting, of course, with the whole coalition thing, where the initial “love in” was a COLOSSAL mistake, and plenty of people said so at the time. Like many members of the party I’m stuck in the dilemma that everyone else wants to divide us into “pro-coalition” and “anti-coalition” and can’t see it isn’t like that. Poor communication means the reality is hardly understood outside party activists – that the balance in Parliament meant we had no choice but to go into coalition.

    On student fees, the most obvious line seems absent from discourse. Those opposing the situation often seem to argue as if the tuition otherwise really would be free. The reality is that if it costs £9000 a year to educate a student at a good university, it will still cost that even if it is paid from general taxation. If we could at least get to this point, we could have a more useful discussion on the issue.

    The weird thing is that as someone who is very much anti-Clegg, I find the brainlessness of the “you lot all sold out” screams against us (I cannot dignify it with the word “arguments”) drives me into being a loyalist. I have just recently had several letters published in the press defending the coalition. If I knew there was some sensible and realistic support for an alternative out there, which actually understood the position and suggested alternatives on that basis, I would be far more willing to work within the party for alternatives to what it is doing now.

  • Andrew Haldane 29th Sep '11 - 11:58am

    I agree Nick should apologise. I think he might also try something more agressive, eg. The pledge was made in good faith. It would have been in the country’s interest as well as the students’ to keep it. But it wasn’t us who trashed the economy. Both coalition partners had to sacrifice cherished spending options once the magnitude of the risk of failing to restore confidence became apparent. Sacrificing our tuition fess policy hurt me deeply and I apologise sincerely to all those students who thoroughly deserve the support we could not give them. For me, but most of all for them, I feel beside myself with anger to see the Labour Party, seeking to ingratiate themselves with students and their parents by promising yet more incredible and unaffordable spending when it was their economic mismanagement laid waste to our hopes and students’ hopes on tuition fees along with many forward-looking policy options.

  • David Allen 29th Sep '11 - 1:47pm

    Monty Python, just look at the great sketch material the Lib Dems have produced for you!

    “After the last general election, we found ourselves faced with a choice. Either we could keep our promise and let an unlimited tuition fees cap be implemented or we could break our promise..”

    “The pledge was made in good faith. … But it wasn’t us who trashed the economy..”

    “no matter what happened, there was no way to avoid breaking a promise”

    “The whole tuition fees gambit is an awful unintended consequence of Labour’s introduction of tuition fees, which somehow forced all politicians to engage in that mindless haggling game.”

    “You can call it quibbling if you like, but we have scrapped the UNFAIR tuition fees system.”

    We’re trying to out-weird Ed Miliband here, aren’t we?

  • It is a mystery to me why the ‘fees thing’ has caused so much consternation and anger to be directed at the LibDems, as is undoubtedly the case. People who have never been near a university seem livid. This has, I believe, done the LibDems huge and lasting damage. So why did ‘fees’ become so lethal? My best guess is that Student Fees and the LibDems’ decision to agree to triple them (and not abolish them as they had promised) was and is symbolic of the raft of changes that LibDems made immediately after going into coalition. Down the years the LIbDems were the “good guys” of British politics, they had principles. Until May 2010. Then they chose to change policies as part of the reality of the politics of coalition, they seemed to do this with seamless ease. After that they were consigned to the category of “just like Tory or Labour – say one thing and do another”. I really don’t think you can do much about it, what has happened cannot be undone.

  • Stephen Fernley 29th Sep '11 - 2:49pm

    Forgive me for my failure to celebrate the onset of this fairer system. Graduates will now face significanty larger repayments and the apparent fairness is of little consilation. Trying to argue that this is somehow better than before is an insult to common sense and will not convince many.

    The reason students are so upset with the Lib Dems is they broke a promise. Not only that, but a personal pledge made by MPs to oppose any rise in tuition fees. For many, this policy was the deciding factor that made them vote Lib Dem. Breaking such an important and personal promise is not really something you can ever talk yourself out of.

    As it stands, every political party that has been in power has made things worse for students. The most likely result of this is further disillusionment with politics. There is nothing good that can be said for this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Sep '11 - 5:08pm


    I agree Nick should apologise. I think he might also try something more agressive, eg. The pledge was made in good faith. It would have been in the country’s interest as well as the students’ to keep it. But it wasn’t us who trashed the economy.

    No, it was pretty obvious before the election how trashed the economy was, so saying that would make him look as if he were clueless when he went into the election.

    Also the line that this was one of the things that had to be bargained away in the coalition falls down on the very nature of the pledge which was “we will vote against tuition fees”. What would be the use of this pledge in a situation where another party had the majority? We could vote against it, but it would not achieve anything. Any opposition can vote against the government and usually does most of the time. It’s a pledge which only makes sense in the context of a coalition, or at least a minority government and seems to me to be very much establishing this as one thing we would stick firm to even if we had to bargain away others.

    Unfortunately the prominence given to this pledge in the general election campaign meant it should not have been treated as just another thing to bargain with. I can see the arguments, as I put it the £9000 still has to be paid, so if it’s not done in fees it will be done in taxes, and if it’s paid for by borrowing not immediate taxes, it will be paid back in future taxes, from much the same people as would be paying back the fees loans anyway. The argument that it’s a cleverly designed graduate tax and a better one than Labour was proposing is fine – except we are caught on how this was featured in the campaign.

    I’m fine with the idea that manifestos have to be tailored to fit the situation, I’ve always argued against the idea of the manifest as a rigid five-year plan. But don’t single out one aspect as a solemn “pledge” and make that the highlight of your campaign, unless you really would keep that even if it meant out throwing out the rest. Again, it’s a matter of poor leadership, poor campaigning, that we have got caught on this one.

  • Fancy flying paper CGI aside, and regardless of where you stand on the issue of HE funding, the key mistakes here were signing the pledge and doing the ‘no more broken promises’ PPB, which is the kind of thing you only say (especially as a 3rd party) if you expect to be permanently in opposition. There could scarcely be a more open-ended hostage to fortune.

    Clegg (or anyone else) doing any more of a mea culpa about those things probably isn’t the answer.

    To approach the electorate at the next election with the message ‘no more broken promises from now on, no matter what’ would tend to suggest we had learnt precisely the wrong lesson.

    Take Scotland as an example. The SNP have broken numerous promises in the course of their success – and suffered some minor electoral setbacks on occasion as a result. They said they would write off all graduate debt in 2007 and switch to 100% grants – which was a ridiculous policy. The fact they were allowed to promote it to its target audience without any serious critical commentary tells you a lot about the standard of political debate and the reluctance of all politicians to tell people when the Emperor has no clothes. (I apologise if that causes any distrubing mental images.) The debate moves on. There is plenty of footage of Salmond calling Tony Blair a liar, a hypocrit, a war criminal and all manner of things. But he hasn’t done a PPB in which he sets himself up as a Christ-like figure of unprecedented virtue – so attacks don’t stick to him.

    He did do the ‘if nominated, I’ll decline; if drafted, I’ll defer; if elected I’ll resign’ thing about resuming the SNP leadership – but no-one really cares much about that kind of stuff once its done.

  • philip wren 30th Sep '11 - 7:40am

    Whoops, never write a comment after not having had enough sleep the night before.

    Jonathan you’re figures may be right, I am not in a position to know. But I whole heartedly take you’re point.

    What I meant was that the govt. should change its policy to take out the interest charges.

    If students borrow £27,000, that is what we want them to pay back. Not a penny more, nor a penny less.

    No interest. They will be tax payers and that should be sufficient.

    On reflection I might add a figure to cover the administration – though God knows what that could rise to if we let Labour administer it – but

  • philip wren 30th Sep '11 - 7:43am

    apart from that, nothing more.

  • Dave Eastham 30th Sep '11 - 9:14am

    It is no use bleating about the odure of broken promises over tuition fees sticking to the Lib Dems. The practical politics of it, is that the Labour Party and the NUS were allowed to get away with a disgraceful campaign of disinformation that has stuck.This from a party who had the brass neck to introduce upfront tuition fees in the first place!. (Against a manifesto pledge – don’t forget that)

    A whole generation of students and potential students still believe that they will have to find nine grand up front in order to go to university and they will be impoverished by increased repayments of their student loans/fees, the terms seem to be intechangable. Whatever the truth – and it is a fair way from that, it still remains the impression that the Lib Dems had it their power after the last election to abolish or deny an increase in Tuition fees and thus broke a promise. We didn’t but the odure has stuck just the same. Apologising for failing to do something we did not have it our power to do, is not sensible politics. Insisting on the facts being heard is probably a better long term project to 2015. Not having Nick Clegg compound the error by apologising and confirming the mythology

    Oh and don’t forget that the abolition of Tuition fees is still party policy. How realistic that is now is a moot point but it’s still there. Despite Conference having to insist on that policy remaining shortly before the last election, when the “mood music”emenating from some reaches of the Party, were urging for it to be quietly dropped from the manifesto. Remember, there was much disquiet when the subject of tuition fees was, what appeared to many, so easily given up in the Coalition Agreement.

    Anyway it is a distraction. The Brown report which both Labour if they were in power and the Tories would have accepted in it’s entirety, introduces a Market based Higher Education system, which is the real issue, which has frankly not been discussed. The Universities themselves know and there is much disquiet as nobody knows the outcome and we have some great examples of the Market introduced into the public services don’t we?. Rail to name but one, not to mention water and energy.

    We went into Coalition to make a difference and temper the Tory claws. Tuition fees was a case in point where at least for the students it was done. Even if they don’t know it and Higher Education as a whole has been sent off on a magical mystery tour. Apologising for a piece of political theatre to other people’s agendas is not going to do that. Just get on with it.

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